Visiting Vlissingen, The Netherlands: seafaring memories and fine church architecture
The world at large on the horizon — and think of Flushing, New York
Appropriately, the statue of Admiral Michiel de Ruyter (1607-1676) is looking out to sea. The Admiral's seafaring exploits took him far and wide overseas, and he proved his worth in numerous battles with foreign powers on behalf of the Dutch Republic, and also had the reputation of being beloved of his sailors. Vlissingen was in the 17th century, and still is, one of the principal ports of The Netherlands. Because this most eminent of Dutch Admirals made his mark well beyond the horizons of the Dutch coastline, his statue is near the water's edge on the Scheldt esturary at his birthplace, Vlissingen.
Or should I say, Flushing? When you were in New York City, do you remember passing by Flushing Meadows? Well, the original Flushing, near New York City, was named for this Dutch port city by members of the Dutch West India Company in 1645. However, the English-speaking world's principal, direct contact with the port in the late 20th century was via the ferry which ran to Sheerness, England, and its ferry company tended to refer to the port in the Dutch form of the name, so often even English-speaking people will speak of 'Vlissingen' rather than Flushing.
The documented, historical involvement of Vlissingen in the slave trade is a grim and sobering reminder of the origin what it was that at least a proportion of the basis of 17th and 18th century prosperity of some Dutch cities reposed.
The Sint-Jacobskerk and other buildings
I went into the Sint-Jacobskerk at Vlissingen, with its enormous tower, and was treated to an excellent organ performance of a work by Bach. I was struck by the fact that the stentorian, solemn and complex performance I heard was done by an organist aged in his teens. The original church was built in the 14th century, and its tower was altered in the 16th century. Even today, it forms a principal landmark in the wider area.
Other noteworthy buildings include the 17th century Stock Exchange Building (Beursgebouw) and the 16th century Prisoners' Tower (Gevangentoren).
The 18th century former Lutheran church (Lutherse kerk) has undergone a recent program of restoration.
Also worth a visit
Middelburg (distance: 7.5 kilometres) counts the Lange Jan tower, 90.5 metres high, and the 15th and 16th century Town Hall among its principal visitor attractions.
Sluis (distance: 59 kilometres) is a typical Dutch canal town in an untypical location: in Flanders, most of which is in Belgium, but a small part of which, south of the Scheldt estuary, is in the Dutch province of Zeeland, where Sluis is situated. It has some interesting historic buildings.
How to get there: Airlines flying to Amsterdam Airport from New York include Delta Airlines and KLM. The Dutch railroad company NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) maintains rail services from Amsterdam to Vlissingen. There is car rental availability at Amsterdam airport. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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